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Town Meeting Should Turn Off Solar Power Amendment

Proposed zoning change goes against existing state law promoting solar energy systems.

To the editor:

The special Town Meeting is considering the adoption of a Solar Power Generation by-law zoning amendment, Article 8. The zoning by-laws do not need to be amended to address these systems in detail. Also, the draft fails to abide by both the spirit and letter of Massachusetts General Law 40A Section 3, which states that “no zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation of solar energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy, except where necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare.” If there is a potential nuisance arising from the use of these systems, then the problem is best addressed by amending the nuisance elements of existing bylaws.

To add to its undesirability, the amendment is quite specific on many items and does not distinguish between photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, which are quite different in design, deployment and use. The amendment fails to take into consideration the actual practice behind these systems. For example, the amendment would restrict the angle of a solar thermal panel used to supplement a home’s space heating to follow the existing roof contour. Most roof angles are not as steep as needed for generating the most heat during the winter, when the sun is low in the sky. Solar thermal systems installed by certified professionals do not necessarily follow the existing roof contour.

I respectfully suggest that Town Meeting members vote against Article 8 and that other citizens of Belmont urge their Town Meeting representatives to do so.

Paul Santos
Elizabeth Road

PJ Looney January 11, 2012 at 06:38 PM
What protection do abutters have from a neighbor installing a potentially unsightly or excessively protruding solar panel system if this amendment is rejected? How do we prevent another Washington Street (solar water heater in the front yard) from happening? There are aesthetic solar panels and there are solar panels that have the cosmetic appeal of a broken down car on cinder blocks in a driveway.

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